Chapters, Rat in a Maze

Rat in a Maze: Chapter 9

For reasons Jack couldn’t comprehend, the priest he had met in the hallway followed him back to the door. He kept speaking prophecies being fulfilled, and other stuff Jack couldn’t quite understand. Jack tried his best to ignore him.

 

Blocking the priest out, Jack was left alone to his thoughts. The presence of the priest reminded him of the Sundays of years past, when their family went to Church. They listened to the sermon of the father, and went home afterwards. Jack never paid much attention to the sermon, or the church overall. It simply didn’t catch his attention, and sometimes he thought he didn’t really believe in God.

His parents were devout Catholics, so it scared him to think what they might do if they found out Jack wasn’t as faithful. He imagined they would kick him out of the house, or force him to go to Church every day. As he grew up, Jack came to realize that he did believe in God, but he simply had no use for organized religion.

It’s not like they would let me go when I was in the asylum, anyways.

To his side, the priest kept on rambling. They reached the door, and Jack stood, waiting. Travis and Rose arrived later, with their hands empty.

Hey. How did it go?” Jack asked.

Bad.” Travis said. “We found nothing, except a cryptic message.” Travis recited it to him. Jack slowly nodded. “And a monster, but that’s par for the course…”

What about you?” Rose said.

He digged the key out of his pocket and showed it to them. “Found it in an office. I get the nagging feeling it’s a dead end, though.”

Why?”

Jack shook his head and shrugged. “Can’t tell you. Let’s try it.” He stood up and turned towards the door, holding the key. “Oh, yeah. I also found him.”

Who?” Rose said.

Him. The priest.” Jack cocked a thumb over his shoulder, where the priest had been standing.

Jack, there’s nobody there.”

He froze. “He…must have left, already. He was kind of weird, anyways.”

We didn’t see anybody when we walked in, Jack.”

Jack said nothing. He put the key into the lock and turned. It didn’t budge.

Dammit. It’s a dead end.” Jack cursed under his breath.

Dad, didn’t the message in the wall say we had to go down, back in to the darkness?” Rose turned away from the door, to the hallway.

I don’t think it meant the hallway.” Travis said.

I know. But the monster fell into the elevator shaft, and it was pretty dark in there.”

Elevator shaft?” Jack said, removing the key from the lock. He turned around and put it into his pocket.

The monster we met stumbled into an elevator shaft, and fell.” Rose said.

But if it’s going down, it could only lead to…”

The maze, yes.” Travis said. “But unless the doors to the North Wing are open in the other two floors, that’s our only bet.”

Are you sure the shaft is the only way?”

I didn’t see any stairs leading down.” Rose said. “Did you?”

No.” He let out a sigh. “I really don’t like this idea.”

I’m not in love with it, trust me.” Travis said. “But you’re the one who wanted to go forward, and that’s the only way right now.”

I knew that’d bite me in the ass later.” Jack muttered. “Alright. How are we going down?”

We’ll need to find some rope, I guess.” Rose said. “We can’t just drop down.”

Rope in a hospital?”

It’s not a normal hospital.” Travis pointed out.

That only makes our chances lower.” Jack said. “But we probably had to check out the other floors, anyways. Let’s go.”

Jack started moving, holding both the axe and the lead pipe. He stopped and turned around, facing Travis. “Take this.” He gave the axe to him. “You’ll probably run out of bullets soon.”

Travis took it gladly enough, but he looked concerned. “Are you sure? You only have a lead pipe.”

Jack looked down at his lead pipe. “Served me well enough, so far.” With no further arguments, Jack turned around and started walking. The two walked behind him, making their way to the stairwell.

They walked up the steps and into the second floor of the East Wing. It was identical to the first floor, but there were no noises haunting their progress. Jack stood at the last step and Travis moved past him.

It’s way too quiet.” Jack said. “You think it’s empty?”

I think that nobody’s ever been here.” Travis said, looking left and right. “So, it’s probably empty. Which works in our favor.”

Jack nodded and moved in, followed by Rose. “Should we split up?” She said.

I think it’s safe enough. If you guys find anything, this will be our meeting point.” Travis said, moving away from them and going down a corridor.

Jack saw Rose walk away in a different direction, and soon enough, he was left alone. He turned around to the door to the North Wing. Shrugging his shoulders, he walked to it and inserted the key.

No dice. He thought. It was worth a try. No other voice sounded in his head, and he was grateful. Jack walked down a different corridor.

Travis walked past closed doors. At the same time, he wondered about his own closed door. The own he had, inadvertently, closed when he signed up at the state hospital. About the life he had been forced to leave behind, and the one he was hoping to return to. Nothing would be the same, however.

He turned around and faced a closed door. Travis put out his hand, grabbed the doorknob and swung it open. If only it was that easy. He thought.

It was an utilities closet. There was a step ladder, boxes of light bulbs, and other cleaning products. He could see no rope, however. Travis closed it and kept walking.

The lights flickered on and off above him, alternating light and darkness. He looked down at his pocket, and the pocketlight inside it. If the lights died, he wouldn’t be left blind.

The sound of footsteps ahead of him startled him out his thoughts. He blinked, and called out. “Rose? Jack?” No response.

Travis kept walking towards a corner, the source of the noise. A woman looked around the corner, showing only one eye, at him. Startled, he jumped back, and the woman started running away.

Wait!” Travis called out. “I’m not going to hurt you, hold on!” He started running after her.

The woman looked over her shoulder and spotted Travis. She looked away and kept running from. Travis gave chase while he asked her to stop.

The woman took no heed. She turned left and right, as if she knew the place from memory. Travis could barely keep up with her. The red lights overhead started to make his head hurt, but he pressed on. Guided only by the noise of footsteps, he followed her.

They finally ran into a lone hallway that ended in a door. The woman stopped at the door as Travis walked into the hallway. He finally got a good look at her.

That woman, she looks like…What the hell?

The woman turned away from him and grasped the doorknob. She swung the door open and walked in, closing it behind her. Travis ran to the door. He heard a sudden cry from inside, probably the woman’s. It cut off abruptly, and then it was followed by a shrill laughter, sending shivers down Travis’ spine.

He jerked the door open, violently. The room was covered in blood, and it was empty except for a note laying on the middle of the room. Travis walked up to it and picked it up.

Even if you think opening that closed door in your life will bring you back to your old life, you should think differently. Nothing is for granted, this woman wanted safety and found death. Did she look familiar to you?

Travis crumpled up the note in his hand, threw it away and walked out of the room.

That woman, she looked like…Laura. Does this mean she’s dead? But Rose…

He uttered a cry of frustration. “Just what the Hell is this place? Who’s trying to screw with my head?!”

As in response, a shrill laughter broke from somewhere inside the hallway. Travis closed the door behind him and walked away from it.

Rose walked alone, in the middle of the hallway, trying not to touch the walls. She thought all that rust could not be any good for her health. Or everything in the hospital, really.

The doors were closed, but unlike Travis, they held no special meaning to her. Rather, her mind was focused on the red lights, and if it meant something.

Nothing in this place makes sense. Why should the lights? In spite of this logic, they still caught her eye.

A door creaked open near her, swinging slowly open. She turned around, holding the butcher knife. There was no one inside. Rose quickly recognized it as a doctor’s office.

She moved in without dropping her guard. When nothing jumped to rip her throat out, she lowered the knife and inspected the office.

Like the other offices, it was mostly empty, but it didn’t look picked clean. There was a desk in the middle of the room and a chair behind it. A bookcase, filled with dust rather than books, sat against the wall. One lamp sitting on a small desk next to a comfy looking leather chair.

Whatever doctor owned this office, he sure had it going. She thought. There was nothing on the large desk or the small one. Rose walked behind the desk, and checked the drawers. One contained a stack of papers and writing materials. Another was locked.

Well, this is interesting. She turned the knife, pointing the handle at the lock. Slamming it into it, the lock snapped and fell to the ground. Rose opened the drawer and pulled out a small, leather bound diary.

She sat down on the leather chair and opened the diary. In bold, golden letters, the first page read:

PROPERTY OF

DR. TREVOR FISHER.”

She turned the page, to “Day 1.”

Day 1

My suspicions have brought me to the New Mexico State Psychiatric Hospital. Patients, and sometimes even doctors, regularly seem to disappear from this place. Here, I’ll write my findings.”

Rose’s interest was piqued with this first page. As she turned the page, she wondered where this doctor was now. Her father hadn’t been the first to look into the mystery surrounding the hospital, it seemed.

Day 5

I spotted several heavy, iron doors scattered around the facilities. When I asked some co-workers about it, they immediately excused themselves, talking about some important work, or the other. Whatever they are, they are of utmost importance.”

Day 6

I was told by a fellow doctor to, as he put it, ‘refrain asking about the iron doors’. Starting now, I’ll keep this diary inside a drawer, under lock and key.”

Day 10

I spotted a nurse escorting a patient towards the iron doors today. She pushed him into the dark place behind them and then shut the door. I managed to remain unspotted, but if I’m planning to get past those doors anytime soon, it can’t be during the day.”

Day 12

Co-worker pulled me into his office at lunch time. I’ll write what he told me below.

‘Trevor. Don’t think they don’t know.’ When I asked him about it, he said: ‘That you’re looking into the iron doors. It’s become obvious. If you don’t stop, you’ll…be silenced. Please, for your sake, abandon your investigation.’

With what he told me, it’s highly unlikely I’ll stop anytime soon.”

Day 13

The director, Dr. Kristian Hoffman, called me to his office today. He asked me if I wanted to see what was behind the iron doors. I said yes, and he smiled. Hoffman stood up and escorted me to the iron doors. What I saw inside was unbelievable. Derelict corridors, in the worst of conditions, housing mental patients. He pulled me to a testing room where a poor bloke got his skin burned off. Worst of all, he was still alive. Needless to say, I was horrified. He then pulled me out back into the hospital, and asked me if I was satisfied. I didn’t know what to say. He apparently didn’t care, for he took off without me answering.

I’d run to the police, but I lack concrete evidence. Since I was caught unaware, I didn’t have my camera with me. Tomorrow night, I’ll head into that wretched place, and get the pictures I need.”

Day 14

The door wouldn’t budge when I tried to open it. Defeated, I made my way back into my office, where I am right now. I’ll need to devise a way to open the door. I’ll have to cut this short, as I hear someone knocking outside my door like the Devil was after him.”

Rose flipped to the next page. It was blank. She flipped through more. The rest of the book was completely blank.

I wonder where that camera is. She thought to herself, holding the book against her chest. Rose looked down at the book. Maybe I can give this book a good use…

She reached into the open drawer and pulled out a pen. I’ll give it to Jack. It’ll probably help him to organize his thoughts.

She stood up, with the book and pen in hand. Moving out of the room, she kept exploring. There was no rope to be found, however, and she returned disheartened to their meeting point.

Jack walked down the corridors. He soon found out that the lights were dead in his segment of the corridor, so he walked with his flashlight pointing forward. It painted a circle of light in the rusted walls, revealing only bits of the hallway. A new fear had grown in his heart, of being alone. But the second floor was empty, so there was nothing to worry about.

He was walking and then he stopped, bending over. A sharp pain had grown in his temple, making his eyes water. Jack crawled forward, trying to defeat the pain. It grew in intensity, coiling around his head like barbed wire.

Gibberish that he couldn’t make out played in his head. It spouted a sentence of gibberish and then repeated, looping over and over.

What…what the hell is happening? What are you saying?

Gibberish started to turn into English words, but Jack still couldn’t understand it. Wrestling with the pain, he got to his feet and stood against the wall. The drilling pain from before started up again, as if something tried to penetrate and invade his mind. Jack wished it out.

The gibberish stopped. A sentence rung in Jack’s mind.

Why did you do it, Jack?

Jack froze, holding his head. He called out to the empty hallway.

Why…what? What did I do? If I did something, please tell me!” There was no response. “I only want to get out of here, and get back home…”

His words echoed through the hallway, bouncing back at him. “What did I do…?” He muttered to himself, pondering. The sharp pain had let up a deal, and he was able to stand up without difficulty.

Jack walked away from the wall, going down the hallway. “Is this place…trying to tell me something?”

Yes. The womanly voice, long forgotten, rung once again in his mind.

But what? Why would this place do that? What is it wanting to tell me? Is it because of this ‘Harbinger’ thing?”

The voice gave no answer.

He kept walking. The sharp pain lessened to a dull throb. Jack closed his eyes, without stopping. When he opened them, the rust from the walls was gone. White fluorescent lights replaced the dazing red ones, and he wasn’t walking anymore. A nurse was carrying him in a wheelchair to his room. Jack looked younger.

Where’s my sister? Where are you taking me?” Jack asked the nurse.

Your sister was taken to another asylum, Jack. I’m taking you to your room.” She said.

Am I going to see her soon?”

We’ll do what we can. The doctors here will take good care of you. Tell me, Jack, is this your first time in an asylum?”

It is, yeah. Why do you ask?”

Considering your condition and the fact it’s hereditary, I’m surprised you hadn’t been interned sooner. Don’t worry, here at the Sunnyvale Psychiatric Hospital, we’ll take good care of you.”

The nurse wheeled him towards an iron door.

That’s a weird door. Where does it lead to?” Jack asked as the nurse stopped his wheelchair in front of it. She moved and opened the door, showing the devouring darkness inside.

Why, Jack, this is your room. This is the place you belong to.” The nurse pulled Jack and threw him inside. Jack screamed as he fell through the darkness, unending, forever doomed to swim in limbo. He looked up, and saw the rapidly diminishing image of the nurse looking at him fall. His eyes closed and he prayed for it to end.

Bit hypocritical of you to pray for God, isn’t it?

Jack opened his eyes. There was only darkness beneath them, but he wasn’t falling anymore. He was lying down on a soft surface. The noise of a running sink reached his ears.

Jack got up on his arms. He recognized the surface below him as his bed, and the place around him his room. It had been a long, long time, but he still recognized his room. There was never any spoiling in his life, coming from a middle class family, but it was still adorned with things that interested Jack. A baseball glove and bat were down on the floor, next to the bed. Model airplanes hung from the ceiling. It was a hobby he shared with his father, and that he still enjoyed until his admission into the state hospital. There was simply no place for model building in a mental asylum.

He sat up, trying to take in his surroundings. Then, he swung his legs over the bed and got up on his feet. A delicious smell reached his nose, and he walked out into the hallway.

His door stood directly in front of the stairs, and he climbed then down, following the smell into the kitchen. Maggie was on the ground, watching TV. Jack walked by her, picked her up and gave Maggie a tight hug. A bit perplexed, she hugged him back.

Hey, brother.” She said. “Are you feeling okay?”

Yeah!” Jack said. “Fantastic! What’s that smell coming from the kitchen?”

Mom’s making breakfast.”

Jack put her down and ran to the kitchen.

Lydia Harris stood by the stove, making scrambled eggs. She wore a flowered apron, and there was a faint smile on her face. Jack stood by the threshold to the kitchen, unsure of what to say.

Lydia turned to him. “Oh, hey, Jack.” She said, smiling fully. “Morning.”

Morning, Mom.” Jack could find no more words. She simply looked so well, so happy, so…alive. “Where’s Dad?”

Oh, he’s outside.” She said, turning back to the stove. “Why don’t you go see him?”

Yeah, I’ll do that.” Jack turned around and walked to the door. Lydia grabbed a butcher knife from the knife drawer.

He walked to the door and swung it open, expecting his hot, sunny front yard. Jack was met with a derelict hallway, with walls that peeled off and light bulbs that flickered on and off. An interminable darkness awaited him.

Jack turned around. His mother stood over him, wielding the knife. He screamed, and then it was all over. All went black.

He slowly opened his eyes. A rusty floor greeted him as he woke up. Jack was lying on the floor of the East Wing corridor. He got up, taking it slow.

Just a dream. That’s all.” He muttered to himself.

You mean to say that, you just fell asleep like that? That’s hard to believe, Jack. No. It was a delusion. You’re cracking, Jacky.

Shut up.” He hissed at the voice in his head. Without stomach for any further excitement, he turned around and walked.

They all walked back to the meeting point.

Any luck?” Travis said. Jack and Rose both shook their heads.

I found this, however.” Rose pulled out the book and handed it over to Jack.

What’s this?” Jack said as he opened the book and looked at the cover that said the previous owner’s name.

It’s a diary I found while I was looking around for rope.”

Jack flipped the pages. A pen fell out and hit the ground, bouncing up once. He reached down and put it back inside the book. “Thanks.” He said. “But I’m not sure what you want me to use it for.”

Well, I thought that writing down your thoughts might help you calm down.”

Not a bad idea.” Travis said.

Alright.” Jack said. “When we stop to rest I’ll write some. Maybe I could get it novelized, when we get out of here…”

Let’s focus on the now.” Travis said. “What are we going to about the elevator shaft?”

There’s still the third floor to explore.” Rose said. “Although…how are you two holding up? I feel like I’m going to fall over any time soon.”

I feel exhausted.” Travis said. “But I don’t see anywhere to sleep.”

Third floor.” Jack said. “There should be sleeping rooms in third floor.”

How do you know?”

I was admitted here, remember?”

When it was normal.”

Well, true. But the place is still generally the same.”

Can’t argue with that.” Travis shrugged his shoulders. “To the third floor, then.”

They walked up the steps to the third floor. In short time, they found three rooms in a row that contained beds. Jack was surprised at how clean the beds were, still having the sheets.

A sight for sore eyes.” Travis called it as he ducked into his room. Rose bid Jack good night and moved into hers. Jack closed the door and sat on his bed, holding the book. He started reading through the pages, and when he reached the last entry, he grabbed the pen. Writing his name on the next blank page starting from the last entry, he wrote.

Day 1

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to write here. But Rose said putting down my thoughts could be useful, so I might as well give it a shot…

Honestly, I feel reluctant to do this. I don’t have the certainity that this will reach somebody. Just like those notes we found in the maze. I still have it. Linder’s note, I mean. It’s still in my pocket.

Maybe I should start by giving some explanations. My name is Jack Harris. I have schizophrenia, and I was in the New Mexico state asylum going through recovery until I was thrust into this madhouse. Under the asylum, there’s a large system of tunnels, dubbed The Maze. In the maze, they ran several disturbing experiments, I guess in the name of research. There, I met nurse Rose Hartmann. Her father worked in the asylum years ago, before he mysteriously disappeared. She was, as well, thrust into the maze. We escaped the maze, and we thought we were home free.

We wound up in a strange, mirror version of the asylum. It’s weird to explain. It’s like it is the asylum, but at the same time, it’s clearly not the asylum. Here we found, out of all people, Rose’s father, Travis Hartmann. In honesty, it feels like an extension of the maze. The most logical explanation I can come up with it is that the maze lead us into another, similar asylum, that was abandoned. But the monsters we’ve seen…

I’m scared. I can tell that, everybody is. This situation ,it isn’t natural, or normal. It’s nothing anything should go through. My hallucinations are more intense than usual. The part that scares the most is what some monsters keep calling me. The Harbinger. The harbinger of what? Rose and Travis know why they’re here, but I have no idea why they put me here. Bad luck, I guess?

I can’t show I’m scared, though. If I do, we’ll never get going. Even though I’m scared, I made a promise. And it’s a promise I swear I’ll fulfill, even if it kills me.

Tomorrow, or when we wake up, anyways, no way to tell, we’re going to go down the elevator shaft, back into the maze. I don’t like it, but I guess it’s do or die at this point.

Jack put the book down next to his pillow. He laid down and slept, succumbing to the darkness of sleep.

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